Stages of Dog Development
Dogs, just like humans, go through different phases growing up. They too experience being a young child, a teenager and even an elder. I want to share with you what each different stage means and approximately how long they last.
The Puppy Stage in Dogs
Age: up to 6 Months Old
Puppies are extremely impressionable. Therefore, 8 weeks old is probably the best time to start training. They learn quickly and eagerly so waiting to train until they are older is never a good idea. This will just set you up for behavioral issues down the road.
At this stage, the most important thing that can be done with a puppy is socialization. There is a small window to get your puppies socialization completed and it is during this stage of their life. Over indulging and spoiling a puppy is setting you up for a very trying "Teenage Stage".
It is also very important to get your puppy neutered or spayed before they turn 6 months old, which is the transition age into the "Teenage Phase".
The Teenager/Adolescent Stage in Dogs
Age: 6 Months to 18 Months Old
Though your dog's body may stop growing and reach adult size at around 12 months old, this does not mean their brain is fully mature yet. At this stage they may act more rebellious, testing boundaries and become your typical headstrong teenager.
Stepping up to discipline and laying a good foundation of rules and boundaries are imperative at this stage. This is not the time to lack on your dogs training and let them get away with behavioral problems!
This is a very trying stage of dog owners as dogs seem to regress in their training. Keep up the hard work and push through this stage with a patience, calmness and consistency.
At 6 months old they have become sexually mature. Just like human teenagers, hormones start releasing and their sexual urge starts increasing so spaying and neutering is a must prior to them turning 6 months old.
The Adult Stage in Dogs
Age: 18 Months to 7 Years
Your teenager is finally phasing into an adult dog around 18 months old. They have matured emotionally and socially. Their behavior is more predictable at this stage, however they may want to be more of the dominate boss in the household.
Having rules and boundaries in place and continue to have your dog follow through on the commands helps keep the dominance aspiration at bay. These are the years that your dog will "come into who they are."
With training at the early stage and setting up a discipline method and laying a good foundation of rules and boundaries helps you enjoy your dog's adult years as a well mannered fur kid!
The Senior Stage in Dogs
Age: 7 Years +
Your fur buddy of many years has now hit their elder years. As each year passes, you will see changes in your fur child. Loss of vision and hearing and more stiffness and pain occurs in this stage. Your pet may have confusion or be less tolerable due to the loss of their senses. More frequent outdoor potty breaks are a must during this stage as they may start to struggle holding their bladder and bowels for a long time.
This is the stage that extra care, vet appointments and TLC (Tender Loving Care) needs to be given to your senior dog. Just because they don't move quickly like they use to or have trouble seeing or hearing clearly doesn't mean they still don't love you the same and they deserve to enjoy and relax their senior years out with their best friend, you.
All stages require a proper feeding schedule and food for the stage they are in. Exercise is a must for all stages as well, but should be adjusted appropriately for each stage. For example, a puppy should only be walked for 5 minutes of every month they are old. They are growing fast and long walks can be exhausting and may even cause injury to their little ligaments and joints. A geriatric should be walked daily, but not as long as a teenage dog would. They don't have the stamina they used to and may have stiffness and pain in their joints.
These stages are just a reference guide as each breed is different. Larger dogs tend to reach the geriatric stage by age 7, while smaller breeds not until they are 10 or older. Each dog has a different personality and temperament, but I hope this guidance gives you somewhat of an idea of how your dog's stages coincides with their behavior.
Dog Bible, Edited by Kristin Mehus-Roe, 2005